The Endocannabinoid System 101: The Basics Made Easy

This article was originally published on The Cannabis Community and appears here with permission.

The discovery of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and its effects on the human body has landed itself in the spotlight of high-profile research institutions and medical journals. Learn how it works and how consumption affects it.

The Endocannabinoid System is a complex cell-signaling system in the brain and body that interacts with other body systems. In 1992, when scientists were conducting research on the effects of consumption, it was discovered that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a compound found in cannabis, could bind to cellular receptors. Even if you don’t consume cannabis, the ECS is active in your body.

Research has linked the ECS to the following processes:

  • appetite and digestion
  • bone remodeling and growth
  • cardiovascular system function
  • chronic pain
  • inflammation and other immune system responses
  • learning and memory
  • liver function
  • metabolism
  • mood
  • motor control
  • muscle formation
  • reproductive system function
  • skin and nerve function
  • sleep
  • stress

All of these functions help to maintain homeostasis, or the stability of your internal environment. When an external cause interrupts your body’s homeostasis, such as pain from an accident or a fever, the ECS steps in to help your body recover to its normal state. Experts now believe that the ECS’ principal function is to preserve homeostasis.

The Endocannabinoid System is made up of 

  • endocannabinoids
  • cannabinoid receptors
  • endocannabinoid enzymes


Endocannabinoids are a group of molecules that are similar to the cannabinoids found in the sativa plant. The two most studied types of endocannabinoids are N-arachidonoylethanolamine or Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). 

AEA is involved in the brain creation of motivation and pleasure, as well as the regulation of feeding behavior.

2-AG plays a role in a variety of (patho)physiological processes, including emotion, cognition, energy balance, pain perception, and neuroinflammation.

Both molecules are produced in the body and can be found in the …

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